KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/21 Oct) – Ten passengers died while 30 others were injured when a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) exploded inside the Rural Transit bus as it was traversing the highway in the municipality of Matalam in North Cotabato this morning.
“The explosion was so powerful that people were killed on the spot,” said North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou J. Taliño-Mendoza. She added that bodies were strewn inside the bus, which left Cagayan de Oro City early this morning bound for Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat. The explosion took place around 10:45 a.m.
Sr. Insp. Joyce Birrey, spokesperson of the North Cotabato Provincial Police, said the IED was placed in a seat on the third row from the back, on the right side of the bus that bore body number 2284.
The bus driver was quoted as saying over radio that three unidentified men boarded the bus along the highway in Kabacan town. They disembarked when the bus reached the Poblacion of Matalam town. Minutes later, when the bus was cruising the highway in Barangay Dalapitan near Matalam’s boundary with M’lang, the IED exploded.
Chief Supt. Felicisimo Khu, chief of the Director for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) for Western Mindanao, said over Kidapawan-based radio station DXND that the IED was fashioned from a mortar cartridge and triggered by a mobile phone.
He discounted extortion as a motive because the bus company management said they have not received extortion demands from any armed group operating in Mindanao. Khu said, however, that it could have been a terrorist act as he blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Reports said eight of the fatalities died on the spot; one died while being treated at a hospital, the other while being transported to a hospital in Davao City.
Eight of the fatalities have been identified so far. Those who died on the spot were Bryan Galagas, conductor of Rural Transit bus and resident of Datu Paglas in Maguindanao; Tanting Usop Dalidan, student of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) and also resident of Datu Paglas; Rommel Espanola, of Barangay Bagontapay in M’lang, a third year student of USM student; Marc Lester Feri, third year development communications student at USM; Genevieve Sibonga, 37, of Pontevedra in Antipas, North Cotabato; and Lolita Galido, 64, of BarangayTubog, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Noriela Akmad, 21, of Kabacan, North Cotabato, died while being transported to the Southern PHilippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City; while Lita Manzano, of Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat province, expired while being treated at the Cotabato Provincial Hospital.
The bodies of two unidentified victims are still at the Torreda Funeral Homes in Kidapawan.
At least 30 of the more than 50 passengers sustained shrapnel wounds. Many of the wounded were reportedly in serious condition because of severe head injuries. They were rushed to different hospitals in North Cotabato.
Bryan Balmediano, of the Red Cross Youth Council of the PHilippine National Red Cross Kidapawan City subchapter, provided MindaNews with the names of 16 of the wounded passengers.
At the Cotabato Provincial Hospital — Guinaid Adam (later referred to SPMC), Gueria Daud, Flor Belong, Abson Camino (referred to SPMC), Anwar Guialo, Abner Garcisto.
At the M’lang District Hospital — Julius Pasigua, of Libungan, North Cotabato (referred to SPMC); the couple Juvencio and Rosel Estrada, of General Santos City; Christian Ben Tigullo, 19; Von Wilfred Angel, 16.
At the M’lang Doctors Hospital — Mary Joy Paca, of Kabacan, North Cotabato (referred to the Kidapawan Doctors Hospital); 13. Arnold Mosquera; Christian Alabado.
At the Babol Hospital in Matalam — Charlie Adrias, 52; Cherry Ann Adrias, 11.
This morning’s explosion broke the lull in bombings in Southwestern Mindanao, allegedly the region with the most number of bomb attacks from extortionists and terrorists.
The region is composed of the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato City.
Each of the cities, at one time or another, have been hit by bomb attacks.
Many of the bomb attacks in the region have been blamed on extortionists preying on bus companies in the area, authorities have said.
Allan D. Yaphockun, a businessman from nearby Koronadal City in South Cotabato and governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Southwestern Mindanao, asked President Benigno Aquino III to solve the bombings that plagued the area in the past several years.
“Past presidents have failed to address the bomb attacks in the region. I hope that President Aquino would look at the peace and order condition in Mindanao and address it to end these senseless bombings,” Yaphockun said. (With reports)